EUGENIO RE REBAUDENGO on the need for a hybrid approach in the art market
As founder and director of online exhibition platform Artuner, Eugenio Re Rebaudengo is at the forefront of the conversation surrounding the direction of the art world today. The son of major collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is simultaneously collecting, curating, and dealing through his brainchild borne of his Master’s degree project at the London School of Economics in 2013. Artuner is now a hybrid of online and pop-up shows, influencing Europe through its exposure and endorsement of young artists breaking boundaries via New Media and contemporary practice.
Collecteurs' Jessica Oralkan in conversation with Eugenio Re Rebaudengo.
Jessica Oralkan: What’s wrong with the art world today and what can be done to fix it?
Eugenio Re Rebaudengo: There is a dangerous dynamic where talented emerging artists are being poached by prestigious blue-chip galleries, with no credit being given to the young galleries that have given support to the artist at the beginning of their career. It, therefore, becomes very difficult for young galleries to grow with their artists – as, sadly, many of them leave as soon as they become successful. It is a complex situation that could lead to polarization: some galleries grow to a sheer size, whereas the young, small ones often die away after only a few years of activity.
JO: So, do you think the gallery model should lean towards artist representation where both parties enter into a contract protecting each other’s rights and interests?
ER: Artists are freelancers and therefore it is impossible to deprive them of the mobility and freedom of expression that they need, especially if the collaboration is not working for both parties. However, I do find the idea of implementing a structure similar to that which is found in the world of sports interesting. Indeed, there are positive examples from this industry, such as in the case of football, where the transfer of players is regulated in order to protect, incentivize, and reward the smaller teams that nurture young and promising players. I think the art industry could use this practice as a benchmark to develop similar agreements between artists and galleries, but also between younger and more established galleries.
There is also a danger posed by the exponentially growing number of art fairs; because of this, galleries often push artists to over-produce fairly standardized work made to fit an art fair booth.
This, in turn, leads to a flattening of quality, as there are many artworks very similar to one another, which the market will doubtlessly struggle to absorb.
JO: It’s no secret that many established collectors have lost interest in art fairs because of over-production and commercialization. It also seems that the galleries in new art fair markets are experiencing a decline in sales due to the local collectors’ interest in the larger galleries that come to their city by way of the fairs. This surely can not be good for the cultural scene. What are your thoughts?
ER: I don’t think that the fair model itself is ill-suited or damaging. It’s rather been a side effect of the steep increase we’ve had in recent years in the number of fairs.
By now it has become clear that real estate and overhead costs have become too expensive for most art galleries, as well as for artists’ studios. For this reason, both categories are pushed further and further from the city centers of art-world capitals (London, New York, Paris, etc), so fewer and fewer collectors are keen on conducting studio visits or gallery viewings. Once again, this is more of an issue for younger, smaller-sized galleries than it is for the more established players in the field.
JO: The operating costs of running a small gallery are exhausting with the high rents and the fees to attend the increasing number of art fairs. Is there a need for a new business model for galleries to survive, one that perhaps separates artist representation and exhibition space?
If smaller galleries are asked to choose between crippling overheads and a more peripheral location that collectors are not going to visit, I believe there is a need to find a third way.
This is the reason why my venture Artuner has both a strong permanent online presence and a pop-up physical one. This allows us to be more dynamic and flexible: we can curate one-off site-specific projects without being tied to a specific venue or city.
JO: What are you most excited about lately?
ER: I love that because of the possibilities offered by the Internet it's now possible to have a hybrid approach, like Artuner – where we have a strong online presence, but we also organize projects and collaborations in exciting venues with a dynamic group of artists. We tailor our exhibitions to the themes explored by the featured artists and to the dialogues developing between them – we always try to go beyond the traditional commercial gallery setting, bestowing added value to our initiatives.
I’m very close to many artists of my generation – and therefore I’m happy to be involved in the development of their careers.
This is why, we often show them alongside more historical artists, in order to give context and allow viewers to understand the new generation in the light of what happened before them.
JO: Artuner’s hybrid approach is very refreshing. Do you have plans to represent artists? Also, do you purchase the works from the artist or are they on consignment?
ER: Thank you. As a matter of fact, we have started to represent a small number of artists, such as Paul Kneale, David Czupryn, and Katja Seib. We also work very closely with some artists' estates, such as Pietro Consagra. Artuner has recently presented his work in a group show in Torino and opened a presentation of this great Italian sculptor in London at the end of June. However, alongside the small number of artists we work with exclusively, the concept behind Artuner is to develop theme-specific one-off projects with more established artists, thus collaborating with the galleries already representing them on a consignment basis.
Jessica Oralkan in conversation with Eugenio Re Rebaudengo.
Photography: Mark Blower for Collecteurs